Though it is now official that Twentieth Century Fox in its current incarnation will no longer exist soon as the company and its assets migrate over to the Walt Disney Company, that doesn't mean executives at the studio can stop working on developing projects.
It's been two weeks since the long-gestating Disney-Fox deal was approved by the shareholders of both companies, and we still don't know the full scope of what the deal means for various entertainment properties that will be affected. Obviously the various Marvel Comics film rights tied up at Fox were the most buzzworthy items while the deal was going on, but there are also a whole host of other franchises and assets to consider, including Fox's various animation properties. While the future of megahits like The Simpsons remains at least a little uncertain, Fox is still going ahead with bigger plans for that franchise and others.
In a new piece at the Wall Street Journal detailing the uncertainty looming over the Fox studio and its employees, one thing was made quite clear: Studio execs often have no idea if they'll even have jobs a year from now, let alone if projects in development will ever make it to the screen. At the moment, though, there's nothing they can do but attempt to keep the machine running, and that means Twentieth Century Fox Film CEO Stacey Snider isn't slowing things down.
According to WSJ's report, Snider's move in the wake of the Disney merger have included extending employee contracts as far as she is able to make sure no one jumps ship too soon (she herself is likely to depart the company following the merger), and heading in a new direction with the animation division in the wake of the loss of Fox's partnership with DreamWorks. It's there that things get particularly interesting for animation fans.
Snider's plan on the animated movie front now includes a partnership with Fox television to develop films based on three of its most popular small-screen animation properties: Bob's Burgers, Family Guy, and The Simpsons. The Simpsons, Fox's longest-running animation franchise, already got a well-received feature film adaptation back in 2007, but now the studio is mulling a return to the big screen for Homer, Bart, and company. Family Guy is another ratings and merchandising juggernaut for Fox, but while its creator Seth MacFarlane has already made the leap to the big screen with projects like Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West, this would be a first for the cartoon following the adventure of the Griffin family, and will reportedly be a blend of live-action and animation. Then there's Bob's Burgers, a heartwarming and endearingly odd animated sitcom about the Belcher family and their adventures in running a small burger joint in a seaside town full of a strange characters. The leap to the big screen — first reported last fall — would also be a first for that franchise.
Snider and company are also still working to turn beloved film franchises into TV series, including developing shows based on the Night at the Museum, Ice Age, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
What's still unclear, though, is how far along this projects are and if they'll survive the Disney acquisition. The Journal's report cites a source claiming that Disney will commit to releasing any Fox film that's either in production or already completed at the time the acquisition is finalized. That means if your movie is already shooting or plans to start shooting in the next few months, you're probably safe, but what happens to films still in various development stages is still very uncertain. Disney may take things on a case-by-case basis depending on the viability of the franchise in question, or they may take a more generalized approach. It's all very much up in the air, but at the moment, all Fox executives can do is keep trying to make movies.
“We’re doing the only thing we know how to do, which is put one foot in front of another,” one executive said.